2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-6:00 PM

Using An Internet-Enabled Software Package to Teach Plate Tectonics and Science Writing to Non-Science Majors

THOMAS, Sabina F., Biology & Geology, Baldwin-Wallace College, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, OH 44017 and PROTHERO, William A., 2106 Las Canoas, Santa Barbara, CA 93105, prothero@geol.ucsb.edu

A rich array of data browsers is available to today's students. Yet if not coupled with sound pedagogy they may not teach the learner how to derive at their own conclusion and interpretation of what is displayed on their computer screen.

The Solid-Earth Data Browser, a component of the LearningWithData software package and the EarthEd framework (see Prothero & Kelly, 2008, JGE 56, and http://learningwithdata.org) provides earthquake, volcano, heat flow, seafloor ages and topographic data from sources such as the Smithsonian Volcano Database, National Earthquake Information Center. Students can examine available data at different scales. In addition, the Solid-Earth data browser allows students to make cross-sections showing the topography of the area of interest, and the display of seafloor ages at the same time. Through activating and deactivating multiple data sets of their choice, the learner is able to observe patterns in the distribution of geologic features and arrive at important conclusions about their meaning. What is visible on the Solid-Earth data browser screen can easily be annotated within EarthEd's electronic writing module or incorporated into other applications, such as Word.

Three assignments were designed that required students to use the data and hone their writing skills: 1. A preparatory paper including Observations and Interpretations sections only which needed to be labeled according to scientific discourse categories representingvarying levels of argumentative power, 2. Calibrated Peer Review helped students to improve their ability in judging their own and their peers' papers, 3. A plate-tectonics inquiry paper that includes all sections of a standard science paper. All three assignments were submitted electronically via the EarthEd framework. Elaborate rubrics assisted the students in following guidelines.

Ongoing surveys and improving student grades confirm that this approach works well for introducing students to conducting scientific inquiry and giving them an understanding of the scientific process.